Emotions when reading foreign literary texts : the "lived through" experience of Korean adolescent students reading English short stories

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2016-08

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Abstract

Although previous studies have addressed affective aspects of second language (L2) reading, little research has explored the full range of emotions that readers experience as they read texts in a second language. This study aimed to fill this gap by exploring the emotional responses of Korean adolescent learners as they read English short stories. To explore L2 readers’ emotional responses, I used a thinking aloud method during reading to describe the process by which L2 readers’ emotional responses occurred. I also conducted interviews before and after reading to identify individual and situational sources for L2 readers’ emotional responses. The literature on reader response criticism guided my exploration into these readers’ literary emotions, and control value theory of academic emotions informed me about L2 readers’ task-related emotions. Socio-constructivist perspectives informed my interpretation of L2 readers’ emotional responses as influenced by the individual and contextual milieu throughout the process. Participants, 35 Korean high school students, were interviewed before they read a literary story, produced a thinking alout verbal protocol as they read the text, and were interviewed again after the text reading. This sequence was repeated two more times. In full, each participant read one story in Korean (L1 text) and two English short stories. Data were analyzed using the constant comparison methods of grounded theory. Findings indicated that L2 readers’ emotional responses varied across the languages of the stories along with their adaptation of reading stance (either aesthetic or efferent). The emotions experienced by L2 readers were powerful in alerting their agency by directing their attention and orienting their reading responses, eventually shaping the quality of their L2 literary reading. Regarding individual and contextual influences on readers’ emotional response to L2 texts, L2 reading ability seemed to be the primary factor, imposing a threshold point to the literal comprehension of the text. An additional source of the contrast between those who entered into an aesthetic stance in L2 reading and those who displayed an efferent stance seemed to be the degree to which readers attested to an inclination to enjoy narrative stories even in their first language.

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